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Burnsville High School senior selected as a 2022 National Merit Semifinalist

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Burnsville High School senior selected as a 2022 National Merit Semifinalist

District 191 is pleased to announce that Burnsville High School senior Zoe Olson has been selected as a National Merit semifinalist. She is one of approximately 270 Minnesota semifinalists in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program, which honors students based on standardized test scores and academic achievements.

The nationwide pool of semifinalists represents less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors and includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced between April and July of 2022 and be awarded 7,500 scholarships worth about $33 million.

“Congratulations to Zoe for her National Merit recognition!” said Burnsville High School Principal Dave Helke. “Zoe's commitment to her education has propelled her to be a top scholar, not only here at Burnsville High School, but across our nation. We are proud of Zoe for this recognition of her academic accomplishments and for her student leadership and involvement at BHS. She exemplifies our mission of Future Ready and Community Strong, and we wish her continued success as she pursues her college and career goals.”

We caught up with Zoe to ask her a few questions, and here’s what she had to say:

What extracurricular activities are you involved in? 

I’m president of the Burnsville Delegation for YMCA Youth in Government Model Assembly and Model United Nations and president of National Honor Society. I’m also secretary for the Youth Service Advisory Council. I’m a BurnsvilleStrong and LINK Crew leader and involved in math league, DECA, student council and mock trial. I am the student representative for the District 191 School Board of Education and the BHS DECA Blood Drive Coordinator. I was also on the girls’ golf team last year. 

What are some of your interests outside of academics? 

I like participating in clubs and groups and enjoy volunteering. I volunteered with the OPEN Door Food Pantry this past summer. I’m interested in government. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and hanging out with friends.

Are there any teachers that have mentored or inspired you? If so, why?

Ms. Hansen inspires me. She’s always super positive and wants to help her students. Last year with COVID, she was really understanding of her students and the challenges they faced with not being at school or able to be with friends. 

What motivates you to succeed academically?

I always strive to be the best that I can be and achieve the most that I can. I have an internal drive and motivation to do well. And, by doing well, I feel like I will have more opportunities in the future. 

What are your post-high school plans?

Right now, I’m undecided as to where I want to attend college. But, I want to major in political science and become a lawyer.  

How has COVID affected your last two school years? How were you able to overcome the barriers of the last two years? 

COVID definitely made things a lot more challenging. Not being able to see friends and participate in activities was hard. I feel like I was able to overcome obstacles by being diligent and not giving up on my activities. I feel like it made me more passionate about community service work and volunteering. I don’t think I missed out on anything academically because I was able to focus on my studies.  

What advice would you give to younger students to be successful at high school?

To stay on top of all your work and just make sure you do your best. Try new things, activities, classes. It’s good to try new things because you’ll meet new people and have new experiences. You’ll get something out of it whether you enjoy it or not. 

We also reached out to some of Zoe’s teachers this year, and here’s what they said about Zoe:

Jen Waller, BurnsvilleStrong advisor - I know Zoe through the BurnsvilleStrong group. She is always there to lead a group, help with anything we need, or volunteer. She is a kind leader!

Michele Carroll, business teacher - She is a returning DECA officer and helps promote our chapter. She is always a person I can count on to help with DECA projects and mentoring others. I have also had her in class for the past several years and she is a rock star in everything she does.

Teresa Meuser, math teacher - I would love to see her stick with math forever - the lady has SKILLZ!! She is a joy to have in class, has a great sense of humor, is always willing to talk math problems out slowly and carefully and help others that don't "get it" as fast as she does!

Keith French, band teacher - Zoe is an outstanding band student. She has been a member of the wind ensemble for three years. She is a solid and dependable student who always does what she says she is going to do and works hard to make a positive contribution to the band.

Marie Hansen, language arts teacher and BurnsvilleStrong advisor - Zoe works so incredibly hard in each class. She is very motivated to learn, and she truly cares about understanding the content of her courses, rather than caring about just a GPA or essay score. She was a true joy to work with in AP Lit because her questions about her writing were thoughtful and analytical. I am so proud of her for this recognition because she is such a driven, motivated, and caring student!

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